West Side Story | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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West Side Story, Drury Lane Oakbrook. Despite the superficial innocence of this 1957 musical--zip guns are heavy gang artillery--its social criticism remains provocative. The conflict might be between the children of disenfranchised European immigrants and those of Latin American newcomers, but the dynamic is sadly similar to more recent ethnic battles, as is the role of the police in exacerbating the tensions.

This production does its duty by the musical romance yet sacrifices none of the commentary. Indeed, in the 44 years since West Side Story premiered, directors have tended to focus less on the star-crossed lovers and more on their kinsmen--notably the tomboy Anybodys and the probably gay Baby John, intelligently portrayed here by Mary Theresa Archbold and Patrick Gagnon under the direction of Ray Frewen.

Brian Herriott (struggling with a hoarse throat at the performance I attended) and Marie Svejda are an adequate pair of starry-eyed innocents, and Joe Van Slyke gives Doc the requisite gravity. But the show belongs to the young rebels, led by Daniel Proctor's tightly wound Bernardo and Andrew J. Lupp's loose-limbed Riff. Also credit choreographer Marla Lampert and fight director David Woolley, who channel the ensemble's infectious energy into an articulate, poignant kinetic vocabulary.

--Mary Shen Barnidge

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